Dear Parishioners and friends,
Our church buildings will remain closed until further notice. As this is the case, I offer you a recorded and written reflection here which outlines some of my thinking over these last three months.
For the audio version of these reflections please click here
9 May 2021
It has been too long since we last met, and I very much look forward to welcoming our church community back together this coming week. While, sadly, there will be some well-loved faces missing, there might be some new faces also, and I know they will find a warm welcome. We will celebrate Ascension Thursday at 11am with a Holy Communion service in Saint Matthias in Ballydehob. On Sunday 16 May, we will celebrate Holy Communion in both Saint Matthew, Aughadown at 10am and in Saint Matthias, Ballydehob at 11:30am.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Forgiving is at the foundation of living our Christian faith. We find Jesus teaches on it in every one of the four gospel accounts. Here, in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter asks Jesus if we are to forgive someone who sins against us as many as seven times. He probably thinks he’s being quite generous. Jesus responds that it should be 70 times 7 times (490), or, in other words, that we should be willing to forgive one who offends us an infinite number of times. Just as Jesus prayed from the cross to forgive His persecutors, and as Stephen in the book of Acts prayed for the forgiveness of those who stoned him, so ought we to follow suit. As I will show you in a moment, the true Christian attitude is one of being prepared to forgive others in every instance.
After Peter’s questions, Jesus offers His disciples a parable to illustrate the reasoning behind His response. He tells of a servant who owed a king 10,000 talents, which in today’s term translates as roughly €10,000,000. That’s a huge amount, and just as it would be far beyond what you or I could likely pay back in a lifetime, the same was true for this servant. For that reason, this king determined, as was the custom in that culture in those days, to sell the servant, his wife, and children into slavery and to auction off the servant’s property and belongings in order to pay the debt that he had incurred. This servant fell at his king’s feet and begged for mercy, insisting he would pay the king back in full. The king looked with compassion upon his servant, knowing the debt was far too large for the man to repay, and he generously forgave the entire debt. Imagine being forgiven the burden of €10,000,000 worth of debt, would you not feel elated? The sense of relief and joy would be immense.
The reality is that that is exactly how we should feel because, you see, you and I, everyone of us, are that servant with the impossible outstanding debt standing before our King. We know from 1 John 1:7-10 that we are all are sinners. All have sinned and fallen short of the Kingdom of God (Romans 3:23). Our ability to repay God for the cost of our own sins is impossible. Sin is any thought, word, or behaviour that separates us from God’s perfect Holiness, and no human effort can ever bridge the divide caused by our own personal sinfulness. God’s compassion for you, for each one of us, is so great that He has forgiven us in Jesus who died on the cross to bear all our sin, and to free us from a debt that none of us could ever repay (John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Unfortunately, few, if any Christians, manage to conduct themselves with an awareness of what God has done to redeem us. Just as the servant absolved of his debt then demanded repayment of the loan to a colleague of 100 denarii, which amounts to roughly a mere €20, so many of us hold against others offences that are nothing in comparison to those that God has forgiven us. Compassion for others grows out of an awareness of what God has done for you. Jesus suffered and died, paying off your debt so that you might be reconciled with His Father and restored in your relationship with Him.
Without doubt, forgiving others is challenging, especially when the wrong done runs very deep. I have known spouses who live in bitterness day in and day out because of unforgiven infidelity. In England, there was a vicar who could not let go of intense anger towards those responsible for her child’s death, much less forgive them. I know a man who cannot forgive a neighbour who considered alterations to his land that would have depleted this man’s enjoyment of his own property. Although the neighbour respectfully abandoned the project when he was informed of the adverse impact it would have, the man refuses to forgive and continues to rage inwardly and hold a grudge against the neighbour. In every case, the unwillingness to forgive has shackled these individuals to their own personal hell, wrapped up in the real or perceived transgressions of others.
When, as Christians, we behave as the wicked servant did, believing it is okay to regard God’s other children with disdain, bitterness, and resentment, and refusing to extend compassion and forgiveness to them, it is an insult to God, whose compassion and forgiveness of our wrongdoings far exceeds any offence we are asked to pardon. This is hard-heartedness and gives Satan a foothold in your life.
An unforgiving attitude should stay in our hearts only as long as it takes to go to the Lord and pray for the offender. As we learn from Jesus, when we fail to forgive others their trespasses, we render the benefits of God’s forgiveness void. We do not forgive in order to earn God’s forgiveness, but because we are His and He forgave us. As He loves us, so are we to love others and Him (John 13:34; John 15:12). As one preacher wrote “Forgiveness of our sins is the greatest gift we have received from God. Forgiveness of sins is the greatest gift we can give to another. Only those who have received it from God can truly give it. And since we have, we will. Amen.”
May God bless you and all those you know,
Tel. (028) 37117
If you would like to see other reflections written by the Rector you may find them here: http://tommystuppence.blogspot.com
If you would like to hear some of Steve's sermons online then please click here
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